US president Donald Trump has asserted he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines as he grows anxious to reopen the coronavirus-stricken country as soon as possible.
Governors and local leaders, who have instituted mandatory restrictions that have the force of law, have expressed concern that Mr Trump’s plan to restore a semblance of normality will cost lives and extend the duration of the outbreak.
The president has pushed to reopen the economy, which has plummeted as businesses have shut down, leaving millions of people out of work and struggling to obtain basic commodities.
For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2020
Taking to Twitter on Monday, Trump said some are “saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect…it is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons”.
He added: “With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”
Mr Trump last month put in place nationwide recommendations for most Americans to remain home and distant from one another to slow the spread of the virus.
But his guidelines, scheduled to expire at the end of the month, have little force – unlike actions of governors and local leaders that carry fines or other penalties.
The discussion of rebooting the nation’s economy comes as Mr Trump bristles at criticism the social restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the Covid-19 could have saved lives if they’d been started earlier – and that when they are eased new cases are certain to arise.
Comments by the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, particularly seemed to draw the president’s ire.
When asked Sunday on CNN if acting earlier on social distancing and stay at home policies could have saved lives, Mr Fauci responded: “It’s very difficult to go back and say that.
“I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives.
“Obviously, no-one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated.”
Mr Trump reposted a tweet that referenced Mr Fauci’s comments and said: “Time to #FireFauci.”
He again pointed to his decision in late January to restrict travel from China, writing, “Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape. I banned China long before people spoke up.”
A senior administration official said Mr Trump is not considering firing Mr Fauci but was merely reacting to what he perceived to be criticism of his leadership.
The president has promised to unveil a task force of state and local officials, business executives, economists and health officials on Tuesday as he explores how to reopen businesses without sparking a renewed outbreak.
Mr Fauci has said the economy in parts of the country could have a “rolling re-entry” as early as next month, provided health authorities can quickly identify and isolate people who will inevitably be infected.
He cautioned that whenever restrictions ease “we know that there will be people who will be getting infected”.